MONTREAL- With Canadiens draft pick Carey Price holding the fort, Canada made it three gold medals in a row at the 2007 World Junior Hockey Championship in Sweden.
Thanks to a 4-2 victory over Russia in the gold medal final, Canada earned its 13th World Junior title, moving past Russia for the all-time lead.
Price, who earned both top goaltender and tournament MVP honors, made 25 saves in the clinching game against Russia to end the tournament with a perfect 6-0 mark and an impressive 1.14 goals against average.
The 19-year-old netminder almost single-handedly dragged Team Canada into the final with his brilliant performance in the semi-final against the United States. Price made 35 saves in a thrilling 2-1 shootout victory that saw him escape unscathed in an overtime frame where Canada was outshot 12-2 by Team USA.
Price becomes only the second Canadiens prospect to ever backstop Canada to a gold medal at the World Juniors, after Jose Theodore also turned the trick back in 1996. Like Price, Theodore went undefeated with a 4-0 mark including a 4-1 win over Sweden in the gold medal game. The only other future Habs goalie to have protected Canada's crease was Mathieu Garon. Despite having the likes of Vincent Lecavalier on his side, Garon and the Canadians could only muster a disappointing eighth-place finish at the 1998 World Juniors in Finland.
It also marks the second straight year a Canadiens hopeful has had a hand in delivering a gold medal to Canada at the World Juniors, with Price following in the footsteps of Kyle Chipchura and Guillaume Latendresse, who led Team Canada to gold in Vancouver last January.
The Canadiens' top pick, fifth overall, at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Price was the first goalie chosen in the opening round by Montreal since Michel "Bunny" Larocque was selected sixth overall at the 1972 draft. The last time the team looked to the crease with its first pick was back in 1970, when Ray Martyniuk went fifth overall. The highest-drafted goalie in team history was the late Michel Plasse, who was nabbed first overall by the Canadiens in 1968. Price is also the highest-drafted netminder chosen by Montreal since Garon and Theodore were each selected 44th in 1996 and 1994, respectively.
Carey Price is the third Habs goalie prospect to have played for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
| ||Year ||Record ||SO ||GAA |
|Carey Price ||2006 ||6 - 0 ||2 ||1.14 |
|JosÃ© ThÃ©odore ||1996 ||4 - 0 ||0 ||1.50 |
|Mathieu Garon ||1998 ||2 - 3 ||2 ||1.91 |
Next up for Price is a return the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League were he has 12-7 record with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage in his fourth and final year of junior eligibility.
Price isn't the only Canadiens prospect leaving Sweden with a medal. Russian defenseman Pavel Valentenko earned a silver medal after coming up short against Team Canada in the final. Valentenko did manage to sneak one past Price, giving the 6-foot-2 blue liner three points in six tournament games.
While he may not be heading to back to his junior team in Chicoutimi with a medal around his neck as he had hoped, Slovak winger Juraj Mikus left his mark on the 2007 World Juniors. The Canadiens' third pick at the 2005 draft led all scorers with five goals in six games, including a two-goal effort against Belarus that helped Slovakia finish eighth to remain in Pool A.
The same can't be said for Sergei Kostitsyn of Belarus. Despite leading the his team with five points, Kostitsyn was unable to repeat his World Junior heroics of a year ago, which saw his native country squeeze into the top 10 to remain in Pool A. With only two victories this time around, Belarus will now have to qualify in order to take part in next year's tournament.
Canada will look to make it four in a row at the 2008 World Junior Hockey Championship to be held in the Czech Republic.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com
Price the star of the show for Canada